How to break away from a job rut and follow your dream

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Last week, I was asked for five tips on ‘how to break away from a job rut and follow your dream’ for a self-development website, in 600 words or less.

I could wax lyrical about this for hours.  But all I had was 600 words.

This content is usually the basis for talks I do in schools, Universities and any situation where I’m asked to be the guest speaker.  The importance of following your dream is one of the key threads of my life.

Some people know my story.  I do like to tell it when I’m on stage performing because so many songs I sing are ones that have inspired me or are about having an impossible dream to do what you love to do!

My propitious moment came when I was 22, taking a tour through Graceland with my Mum, Dad and younger sister. We were visiting America to regroup and spend time together following the accidental death of my elder sister.  I was trying to make sense of losing my sister Julie and questioning myself about the purpose of my own life, after the realization that life can be taken away so quickly.  The tour wrapped up at Elvis’s gravestone to the tune of the King singing ‘My Way’.  And it struck me, ‘this is what I want to do: sing and make a difference!’

So, on the plane home to NZ I devised a plan to make it happen. I resigned from my job as a qualified Chartered Accountant in a bank and hopped back on a plane to America to train at the Boston Conservatory of Music.  It was a miracle they saw me as a potential performer at that time and let me enroll but they did.  Maybe it was the power of the dream that was palpable, I asked people to call me ‘Superstar Sewell’, even when I worked in a bank.  That belief paid off and I gained my credentials at the Conservatory, mostly by working my butt off all hours of the day and night because I hadn’t trained since I was two, like most other students there, and I was paying for it all myself.

Then I moved to London to work on the West End but subsequently created my own ‘singing waiters’, which turned into the legendary bespoke entertainment company, Incognito Artists, when I realized I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and not at the mercy of casting directors sealing my fate.

And I’ve never looked back.

But back to the self-development website I mentioned.  These were my 5 top tips (as I saw it on that particular day).  Just some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1.       In this business, because of the many ups and downs, you must have at least 15 reasons why you want to be a professional singer/actor. If you only have two – fame and fortune – then you will only last five minutes, if at all.
2.       Do what you love to do, every day. Life is short. Carpe Diem. Cliché but it’s true.
3.       Be Here Now.  Be present to what’s happening around you.  Feel grateful for what’s working.  Be open to enjoying the journey as much as the destination you’re trying to achieve.  You’ll embrace the adventure and discoveries that way, more doors will open for you.
4.       Don’t fear what you don’t know.  You don’t even know what you don’t know!  So don’t worry about it.  Worry is just thought which  you made up and it’s a prison of your own making. Don’t limit yourself.  The unknown is cool because anything is possible and dreams do come true.
5.       Cashflow is king.  I don’t mean be a slave to financial reward but make sure you’re budgeting and have enough funds to keep living the dream.

Many of us are not living our dreams because we’re actually living our fears!

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined – Thoreau



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